In this month's Talking Travel series, we chat to prominent and respected TP blogger and photographer Margaret Metcalfe aka margaretm. Margaret has travelled, lived in other countries and learned foreign languages for as long as she can remember. Her nomadic beginnings conditioned her for the rest of my life and since then, she's lived in eight countries and travelled extensively, working as an English teacher and translator, and doing voluntary work. Broadly speaking, she believes in making things happen and making dreams come true ("even if others think you are crazy"). Her experience is that travel is one of the best teachers you can have in life.
Her husband is Catalan, they have two teenagers and her home is a multilingual environment where they speak a mixture of Catalan, Spanish, English and Cataspanglish. They moved to Mexico City a couple of years ago where, among other things, she works with Casa Daya, a home for abused teenage girls with their children.
You've been travelling since you were eight months old - is there anywhere you haven't been?
Although I’ve travelled widely, there’s still so much of this world I haven’t seen and would like to. For example, I haven’t stepped foot in South America or Australia yet and I would definitely love to see more of Africa. I actually like taking the road less-travelled so am happy to end up where there aren’t many tourists.
Some of my travels have been planned but others have just fallen in my lap unplanned, like our current situation, in Mexico or the time my parents unexpectedly went to work in the Seychelles for a year. I was able to spend a couple of months with them and get to know a country I otherwise would probably never have visited. That’s why my blog is titled: “Wherever life takes us”. I’m not sure where I’ll be going in the future but I’m open to new experiences.
You're a resident and travel helper of Mexico City – what are you favourite things to see and do there?
Mexico City, one of the world’s largest cities, is an extraordinary place packed with Aztec, Spanish colonial and Mexican culture. There are more than 152 museums in DF alone and I’ve probably only been to about 15 of them so far! Cycling is one of my favourite sports and about eight months ago, I bought a mountain bike so I now go cycling around the Historical Centre with its thousands of colonial buildings and its Mexican character. Another of my favourite places is Chapultepec Park, an enormous park with boating lakes, a huge well-kept zoo, America’s only real Castle and the Anthropological Museum where I often go to find out about Mexico’s past. I really like Coyoacán, home to Frida Kahlo’s museum, which still preserves its character as a small colonial town, especially eating delicious tostadas Mexican-style in the market there. The canals and colourful boats of Xochimilco and the Aztec Pyramids of Teotihuacan are also well worth visiting. I’ve written about some of these places and what life is like in Mexico City on my blog.
You have over 1000 photos on Travellerspoint, what do you love about travel photography?
Looking back, I remember from a very early age flicking through travel books and poring over the photos and maps and having a burning desire to go and experience these places for myself. My parents also took slides of our early years in Asia and on our boat journeys and as a family, we loved to have regular slideshows and re-live those experiences. A photo can convey so much and it’s been a natural step for me to record my own travels using photography. I’m a very visual person so now when I look back at photos I took months, years or even decades ago, I can re-live the whole situation... the sights, the smells, the sounds, the heat, the event as a whole. For me, it’s a bit like writing a visual diary of my experiences.
I particularly like to document a country or culture, not just take photos of the main sights. It’s often the small details which make up the uniqueness of a place and that’s what I try to capture in my photos and share with others. I also like my pictures to reveal the best of a place… if you look hard, you can always find beauty, sometimes in the most unexpected places. Someone once asked me if I thought I could make Bradford look great and I hope I could! Photography has made me much more observant and curious and through it, I have discovered a great deal more about the countries where I’ve lived or travelled.
Your blog 'Wherever Life Takes Us' is updated every couple of days – what tips do you have for other bloggers struggling with updating?
I’m a new blogger myself and am experimenting and learning as I go along. My advice would be to focus on one or two aspects in each post, and not to try to include everything. Select just a few interesting stories, anecdotes, or experiences. It’s probably better to write several shorter posts on specific topics, events or places than one very long one on everything you’ve done in the last two weeks. That can be very daunting. I often spend time thinking beforehand about what I want to include in my next few posts (while sitting in the traffic in Mexico City!!) and that makes it quicker when I actually have to sit down and write or decide which photos I want to upload.
You don’t even have to wait to go on major trips or travels to start blogging about your experiences. Sometimes writing about things which are ordinary or everyday for you can be interesting and even exotic for others. Also most people have digital cameras nowadays so include photos... let your pictures speak for you and avoid having to write long descriptions. On occasions, you may just want to upload a series of photos and put captions to them. That’s also a valid way to share your experiences with others.
What inspires you about travel?
I’ve always been fascinated by the incredible diversity of this world in all its forms, whether in the natural world or among different cultures. The more I travel, the more I’m amazed at the new things I discover and had no idea about. Over the years, I’ve also met people from different walks of life and learnt that it is often the poorest who are the most generous and hospitable. Seeing the deplorable conditions that some people live in also makes me very thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had and encourages me to do something positive to help others who aren’t as fortunate as I am. I’m constantly inspired by the exceptional people I’ve met who have dedicated their lives to making this world a better place.
Check out these recent interviews in the Talking Travel series: